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Slusser successfully defends men’s walk title

August 22, 2009
PARKERSBURG —Don Slusser wasn’t sure how he was going to fare in his defense of the News and Sentinel Half Marathon walk championship.

He and wife Tammy didn’t arrive in Parkersburg until late Friday night and after driving their mobile home for more than 200 miles from Monroeville, Pa., they naturally were tired.

But Saturday turned out to be a good day for the Slusser family as Don successfully defended his title, winning the walk championship for the second straight year, while Tammy took second place in the masters women’s division of the half marathon run.

“She gets $500, I get $200,’’ Don laughed. “Once again, I’m playing second fiddle to my wife.’’

But the 57-year-old Slusser didn’t play second fiddle to anybody else on Saturday as he ran away —make that walked away —from the competition, finishing in 2 hours, 13 minutes and 20 seconds, more than 12 minutes ahead of his closest competitors, second place Tim Finkel of Marietta and third place Jim Ortt of Kimbolten, Ohio.

Slusser wasn’t sure if he was ahead until the eight-mile mark, when walk officials informed him he was indeed in the lead.

At the nine-mile mark, a race official told him he could slow down as he was leading by nearly a mile.

Slusser thinks he may have slowed down a bit then and as a result his time was a few seconds slower than his winning time from a year ago.

“I went out hard,’’ he said. “I got to the 10-mile mark and couldn’t maintain the pace I had up until then. I was competing against myself.”

The Slussers are among the biggest fans of the News and Sentinel Half Marathon, in which they have competed for 21 straight years.

“This is an amazing race,’’ Don Slusser said. “The people here are so friendly and wonderful.’’

The Slussers always plan their racing calendar around the Parkersburg event.

Last year, they came here directly from their vacation in Colorado.

This year, they decided to come on Friday from Monroeville. They got stuck in traffic due to a major accident on Interstate 79 and got here later than they expected.

But they were amazed they still were able to take advantage of the pre-race pasta dinner.

“It was about 9 p.m. and the people were wonderful to us,’’ Don said. “I’m sure they wanted to go home.’’

But that’s the kind of hospitality that makes people like the Slussers repeat customers.

They wouldn’t think of not participating in the Parkersburg race.

The Slussers are making a weekend of it in the Mid-Ohio Valley as once they left Parkersburg on Saturday, they were heading for North Bend State Park in Cairo for an overnight stay.

And you can bet they will be back again next year.

To quote Hank Williams Jr., it’s a family tradition.


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